A leaked media-rights contract indicates the state of Qatar offered to pay Fifa an additional $100m (€89m) – as part of the deal with Qatari state broadcaster Al Jazeera (now beIN Media Group) – if it was successful in the ballot to secure the 2022 men’s World Cup.
The $100m would represent a contravention of Fifa’s anti-bribery rules as Al Jazeera was owned and controlled by Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who was also the driving force behind the state’s World Cup bid.
The Sunday Times says it has seen files which show Fifa’s deal with Al Jazeera, which was announced just 21 days before the world governing body controversially voted to award the competition to the desert state, was worth $300m plus the $100m bonus.
The contract, which appeared to secure the media rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and other Fifa events in the Mena region for $150m each, included an additional $100m payment if the competition was awarded to Qatar. A clause in the contract said: “In the event that the 2022 competition is awarded to the state of Qatar, Al Jazeera shall, in addition to the 2019-22 rights fee, pay to Fifa into the designated account the monetary amount of $100m as a non-refundable contribution towards the costs of the host broadcast production of the 2022 competition.”
The allegations that beIN agreed to make the $100m payment to Fifa are not new. In January Bonita Mersaides, a whistleblower inside Australia’s failed 2022 bid, made the same claims in a book. However, this is the first time anyone has claimed to have seen the contract in question.
Data from SportBusiness Media indicates the television contract, amounting to $400m overall, nearly tripled the $150m Al Jazeera paid Fifa in the 2007 to 2014 rights cycle.
It is not unheard of for media-rights contracts to contain a bonus linked to the location of a tournament, or for them to be sold ahead of its award. Fifa has previously sold its rights far in advance of revealing the location of World Cups in several countries, including the USA, and it is not the only rights-holder to do so.
The Sunday Times said it has also seen a copy of a second television contract worth $480m, covering the 2026 and 2030 tournaments, awarded to Al Jazeera three years later, which it alleges represents a further conflict of interest for the governing body. The contract was awarded shortly before Fifa cut short Michael Garcia’s long-running investigation into corruption in the 2010 ballot and suppressed its findings.
The $480m contract is the subject of an ongoing Swiss investigation. Prosecutors in the country opened criminal proceedings in October 2017, against Jérôme Valcke, Fifa’s former secretary general, and Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, chairman and chief executive of beIN Media Group, over the award of these rights.
The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland has said it suspects Valcke of accepting “undue advantages” from Al-Khelaïfi in connection with the award of rights to the 2026 and 2030 tournaments. Both Valcke and beIN have denied any wrongdoing. Fifa is understood to support the investigation by the OAG as it has been identified as a victim.
A spokesperson for beIN Media Group told SportBusiness: “We cannot answer for Fifa or its members. Nor will we respond to unsubstantiated or wildly speculative allegations. With all media rights negotiations, we engage with and respond to the relevant process that is set out by the relevant rights-holder. The processes for the award of Fifa World Cup rights have been investigated extensively, and no wrongdoing has been found concerning our involvement.”